Study Guide

Hopscotch

by Julio Cortazar

Hopscotch Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Hopscotch is divided into three sections: “From the Other Side,” “From This Side,” and “From Diverse Sides.” At the beginning of the novel Cortázar offers a “Table of Instructions” for reading the novel and suggests that while Hopscotch consists of many books, it most importantly consists of two books. He invites the reader to choose between, first, a traditional reading of chapters 1 through 56 (the first two sections) and, second, a more unconventional reading that begins with chapter 73 and proceeds in hopscotch fashion through a sequence of at least 153 brief chapters.

The traditional reading revolves around Horacio Oliveira, an unemployed Argentine intellectual in his forties, living first in Paris and then in Buenos Aires around 1950. He and his bohemian friends—a Russian, a North American couple, two Frenchmen, a Chinese, and a Spaniard—form a group, called the Serpent Club, that spends hours discussing art, literature, music, and philosophy, and listening to jazz recordings in smoke-filled rooms. The novel, however, focuses on Oliveira’s persistent and anguished self-analysis; he agonizingly questions his every thought, emotion, word, and action. A product of Western civilization, Oliveira constantly rationalizes and drowns in his own well of dialectic possibilities. Oliveira is aware of the absurdity of daily life but is not yet sure of how to contend with it. He searches, feeling alone and condemned to conformity....

(The entire section is 604 words.)

Hopscotch Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

The novel begins with a “Table of Instructions” for reading Hopscotch, which consists of two main books. The reader is given a choice between reading chapters 1 through 56 (the first two sections) and a more unconventional reading beginning with chapter 73 and proceeding in hopscotch fashion through all 153 chapters.

From the Other Side. Horacio Oliveira is an unemployed Argentine intellectual in his forties, living first in Paris and then, around 1950, in Buenos Aires. He searches day and night for some unknown element that he senses is missing from his life. Adrift in Paris, he spends much of his time listening to jazz and classical records, smoking, drinking, wandering the streets, and playing intellectual mind games with a small group of his bohemian friends, a Russian, a North American couple, two Frenchmen, an Asian, and a Spaniard, who form a group called the Serpent Club. His female companion, La Maga, is perceived by herself and by the others as their intellectual inferior, although she is much more attuned to her surroundings and to life. She is intuitive and straightforward, with neither a capacity nor the need for intellectualizing. La Maga is devoted to Oliveira, but he, despite having relationships with other women, is wildly jealous and eventually abandons her because he suspects that she has or will in the future have an affair with Osip Gregorovius, the Russian in the group.

Oliveira leaves La Maga shortly after the death of her infant son, Rocamodour. Although he repents shortly thereafter and searches the streets of Paris for her, he never finds her again. Friends suggest that she has gone to nurse Pola, a former lover of...

(The entire section is 691 words.)